Hononegah’s bubble burst by winter storm

By Erin Kolb

The Hononegah Sports Dome collapsed Monday night as a record-setting sleet and ice storm pelted the Rockford area.

The school’s insurance company along with staff from the dome’s designer, Air Structures American Technologies Inc. (ASATI), were at the school to investigate Tuesday.

“It’s not a pup tent you can just set back up,” said Hononegah School District Superintendent Lynn Gibson. “Cranes have to be involved, and it takes some work.”

The insurance company will have to determine whether the dome will be repaired or replaced after assessing damage to the structure.

The 59,000 square foot structure, home to the school’s indoor track as well as gym classes and myriad winter practices, came down in a heap as basketball goals were left poking out of its exterior.

Hononegah’s dome is the second designed by ASATI to come down during icy weather. In 2007, a similar dome in Wilke-Barre, Pennsylvania collapsed during a severe ice storm.

The timing of the collapse is unfortunate, with about 2,000 students set to return to the school next Monday. The collapse leaves the school with little room to hold physical education classes.

“There has been a generous outpouring of support from the nearby schools,” Gibson said. “They have been very generous in allowing us to use athletic facilities.”

Completed in 2002 for a cost of around $3 million, the dome was expected to last 20 years. Officials say once the investigation into the collapse is complete they will begin to look at plans to fix the outer skin and reinflate the dome or move on to replace the complex with a new fieldhouse.

A school board member told the Times on Tuesday that plans were already under discussion to replace the dome prior to the collapse. Yearly cost and maintenance projections of around $50,000 have nearly tripled during the dome’s lifetime.

At this time, there is no confirmation as to when the assessment will be complete due to the size and scope of the area.

The school board is keeping parents updated with emails and will continue to do so as the investigation continues.

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